Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New 2011

It's hard to believe that another year has whipped by but it did. We survived and happy to be alive to enjoy a few more years. I have learned a lot this year with my dogs, my handling and our relationship.

Getty has been a great spouse in helping me take care of the farm as I still am plagued by the car accident in Oct. He has played a few gigs with his bands and going to them was great fun. He has played his Ultimate and Disc golf for his hobby and spoils the girls quite a bit. He started his own Painting company a couple of years ago so if you need and exterior or interior painting done, drop us a line. He pretends he hates sheep but at lambing time, he can tell you how many ewe and ram lambs we have and who is about to give birth. He has bottle fed quite a few lambs and notices if any sheep have any issues. The horses adore him and often he fusses over them. I have caught him slipping treats to the dogs when he thinks I am not looking. When I go to trias, he rigs up my trailer for me so I don’t stress and parks it for me when I get back. When I call home, he asks, "How did the girls do?" and then asks, "How are you?".

Tess certainly has enjoyed her retirement, aside from the occasional help in the round pen and putting the poultry away at night. She still is the alpha bitch who gets the toys all the time when all the dogs play fetch. Sometimes her nose gets out of joint when I am working another dog, so she will jump over the four foot fence to do self herding. I get the feeling that something is not right and look over and Tess is merrily working the sheep in the other field, exactly to the commands that I am giving the dog in my field. I yell at her "Tess, what do you think you are doing?".....she looks at me, then turns to the sheep as if to say "Why, can't you see....I am working" Sigh.....but there are the times when I go out to work dogs and ask Tess, "Tess, wanna work sheep" and she will barely raise her head off the couch and then go back to sleep. So I let her sleep on her new sheepskin rug and my fancy pillow. Often when I am writing my blog, Tess's head is on my lap and her paws next to the keyboard.

Rainey has matured this last year. Today Janet was working her and she was coming on strong on her walk up. A ewe spilt and she walked head on to the nose, not giving ground and doing what was needed to bring the wayward runaway back. Rainey used to have a soft, not confident walk up but today, she was pushing off with power. She is a slow maturing dog and gives her all. Janet will be moving her up to PN and running her for the next two years. Janet will be running Rainey for the next few years. Rainey is Getty's pet and he doesn't care if she is Open level or not; she is what she is and first of all, she is his pet. She does love to work and will mature out to be a nice bitch but she will take time. She is a good dog for Janet to be running as she is obedient and has a big heart. I will be training Rainey at home but Janet takes lesson/clinics and she will be her trial dog. Getty was very proud of Rainey when she won Novice and ranch at the last trial. That was her last Novice run and at the next trial, she will be in PN. When Rainey is not working sheep, she is often in Getty's lap, getting belly rubs and rooting for LSU. It's hard to believe that three years ago, she was Getty's Christmas Present and fit into his two hands.

Nan and I got into the zone. We just got better and better. I would see my handling errors at the trial when I would be too easy on her and she would slid through her stop or not release the pressure. We teamed up a lot more and she would look to me than through me. Tess didn't go with me on the long road trip so Nan got the lead dog role. She took it seriously and made sure she tried to hog the bed. I need to fix a few more handling error with me for Nan and when I do, we will do a lot better. Nan has also grown a lot more in her confidence and push. She is not afraid to walk up and if need, take a nose. She used to back down before and do a fear grip. If she grips now, it's a well placed grip that means, 'move'. Her outruns do not need to be touched and she walks in on her lift with authority. She knows she is the top Open dog and her work ethic reflects this. She loves to please me and when I am happy she dances with joy. She has shown a goofy side of her and has learned to play fetch.

I struggled with Roo for most of the first part of the year. He would do well then the next time, we would struggle. On the road trip in Oct, we stayed at a sheep ranch where we worked the dogs on range sheep on steep mountains, often 1/4-1/2 miles away and is brush. There we learned to trust each other and our relationship changed. I soften on him and he trusted me. The next weekend, he ran well and made it into the Fire Ridge Double Lift. We had 60-75 plus mile per hours winds and sideways rain during our Double Lift and you could see how he tried his hardest for me. I was ecstatic with his work and since the ranch work, our relationship has gotten better and better. I not longer have to be hard on him and he no longer is hard on me. We enjoy each other and it was a huge shift for both of us.

Taff was my new dog that I got this spring. He was a hard dog to get into his head but I did. He would look through me to get to his sheep and was a hard dog to work. We spent hours and hours on the field, most of it was me running hither and fro after him to get him to listen to me. he did and we have never looked back. He gave me his heart and soul and tried really hard to do right by me. I see a bit of his mom, Nan in him and some of his sire Tweed in his stubbornness. We have come a long way, this Taff and I in the last nine months. Taff was known for blowing up at the top so we spent a lot of time having him comfortable at the top. At his last trial, he didn't lose any points at the top or lift and his points he lost on the fetch was me giving him the wrong flanks, which he took. He still does get tense in some situations but I have been working with him to be relaxed. He is trying for me and that means a lot. I treat him fair and he gives me what I want. He is not prefect and still needs some tune up but he is going to be my next Open dog so I want him to be solid and confident before he goes to Open. He is going to be a great Open dog but I have to be a better handler for him. Now on his outwork, he is very good and I have confidence in him. After our sessions, he will run and jump and bark as if to tell me that he did a good job! Taff is very loving is off the stock, he wants me only to himself and won't play with the other dogs. He wants me to play only with him and will fetch back to me. So I Taff and I have our solo time together and that has bonded us greatly.

Sleat was a hard one to get teamed up. I spent quite a bit of the summer chasing her until she downed for me. She would try to outrace me to the sheep and not listen. It was a free for all with her. Needless to say, Sleat got me in fit shape and one day, she decided that she would listen to me. She was good to stop, and soft on her flanks. I would have to give her a soft arrrh and she would respond. Suddenly, she discovered she go the sheep a lot more and began to yield more. Soon it was a pleasure to work her and we would come out of the pasture with sly looks at each other as if to say, "Ay, that was a good days work, wasn't it?" I spent a lot of solo time with her next to my side as I did the nightly chores and often would sneak her a piece of bread from the tack room. Today we went out and I took her in the cab of my truck. She sat behind me and was well behaved and one point leaned over and licked me. She put her head on the rest next to my face and had a smile on her face during the ride. I plan to be running her in PN next month and hope our new found relationship will just get better and better.

The dogs and I have reached a new crossroad this year, each one in a different way and all have made me a better handler. This year I am working on strengthening the bond with them and working more on myself. Sometimes I do not give them clear signals, then scold then, when in fact it is my issue. With their great capacity for forgiveness, they have and I resolve to do right by them.

My dogs and I hope to go up to another level...we have the tools, the communication, the skills, the desire and now we have to go on the new journey together. We are going to enjoy it tremendously.

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